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Subject: The good is worth skipping the bad!
I actually have a love/hate for this movie. The best moments are outstanding, but much of it is just awful. Not least of which: Jane Powell never looked better than she does in this movie, but I just find her soprano solos completely unbearable. Nearly as bad: I find Sarah Churchill (yes, Winston's daughter) to be about the least compelling romantic interest in the Golden Age of musicals. So with that in mind, here's how to skip through the movie for the most outstanding highlights (which certainly ARE worth the trouble).
Start at the beginning for the adorable "Ev'ry Night at Seven" duet between Astaire and Powell, and then continue watching until you get bored with the comedy. Or, if you get so far as the flirtation between Powell and Peter Lawford, which is pretty fun, then go ahead and stick with it until Astaire's first solo performance, "Sunday Jumps" at about 15:45. This is the famous "dancing with a hat rack" performance, and it's pretty amazing.
Then bail out! and fast forward all the way to about 50:15 for the very UNcharacteristic duet, "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life" (yes, that's all really the title). As far as I know, Astaire never did any more slapstick or lowbrow a performance as this, but it's awesome, and probably the comedic highlight of Powell's entire career as well.
Next up, slide to about 1 hour, 4 and a half minutes for another Astaire solo, "You're All the World to Me." If you haven't heard about this one, I am NOT going to spoil it for you, just brace yourself for an unprecedented and unparalleled dance routine. Finally (and optionally), if you like it when Astaire leads the big chorus numbers (I certainly do), then check out "I Left My Hat in Haiti" at about one hour, 14 and a half.
There are a few (but far between) other worthwhile comedic bits, but above will get you to all the best dancing, which is the best reason to enjoy this FREE movie!
(Incidentally, the restored version available for sale on iTunes IS markedly better looking - I'm glad I actually bought it - but as free versions go, this big MPEG does look and sound pretty good.)
Dark Moon -
Subject: Scarcely worth fighting over
What Robin_1990 said about the plot, dialog, and music, but what almost everyone else said about the dancing. What finally did the film in for me, though, was Jane Powell's...erm...character, Ellen Bowen... Urghhh... 'scuse me a moment...
Subject: Great film
An absolute classic. Astair makes his dancing look as if it's no effort whatsoever. The mans's feet are the 8th and 9th wonders of the world.
Subject: Superb Astaire dancing!
This is a spectacular Fred Astaire film where he dances on the ceiling of his room, waltzes with a coat rack, and does elegant duet dances with the gals. The comedy is light, the plot is rather simple, the tunes unmemorable, but the dancing is out of this world. If you like song and dance movies, this Academy Award nominated movie should be in the top 10 list for best one ever, if only for the rotating room & coat rack dance scenes. My "Public Domain Movie Review Blog" rule: "movies end with everybody getting married" is royaly played out here. (teehee)
Read more movie review at http://pdmoviereview.blogspot.com/
Subject: I've seen it on DVD
Sorry to "Rain on the parade", but I found this film to be mediocre, with dull plot, boring dialog, lousy musical numbers, and an inane scene at an old castle. I'm sorry, But I found this film to be boring, cloying and even annoying! But, The cast is great, so it IS worth watching. Plus the scene with the rotating room is awesome.
Subject: Royal Wedding
Jane Powell and Fred Astaire make a great team in this highly entertaining tale of a brother and sister team who go to entertain in England at the time of the wedding of princess Elizabeth. The opening dance sequence is pure undiluted charm with Fred Astaire leading a dance of courtship around a throne with an extremely beautiful Jane Powell. This movie is full of memorable moments from Jane Powell's outstanding singing to Fred Astaire's exceptional dancing. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to dance in a storm force gale at sea, or to dance on the ceiling, you can see both in this superb movie. Jane Powell and Fred Astaire have a natural chemistry and make a great team.
Cat Lady -
Subject: Excellent movie
If you only watch this for the dream sequence where he dances on the ceiling, it will be worth it - with all the FX we're accustomed to today, it still takes your breath away, and that's due to Astaire's performance. We know technically how they did it, but not only does he cover the moments when the set is rotated so well that you can't tell when the external motion is applied, he also dances like he's really moving along the walls and ceiling and you fall right into the moment along with him.
I haven't seen a lot of Astaire movies but have always associated him with smooth, stylish ballroom dancing. "Royal Wedding" has a more syncopated, gritty and modern beat to it, and not just in the music and sometimes free-style dancing. Tom and Ellen Bowen are a great success in the business of stage fantasies, and in large part that's because they're so isolated from real life - this is shown well in the bar scene where they learn they're going to open in London during the royal wedding time. Each of them eventually has to face the real world in the form of someone to love; ironically, both lovers are living on dreams themselves: the woman is engaged to someone in America and waiting for him to bring her over (which he will never do because he has married and settled down), and the man is from a titled family that has come down in the world and can't afford to keep up the estate any more.
There is a terrific scene toward the end where the brother and sister try to thrash everything out, and where they make the only "right" decision, to keep the act together and give up their own personal satisfaction. Then they get caught up in all the public fantasy on the day of the royal wedding, and each decides to get married, too, and they say goodbye to each other, and by extension, to the act. That's what makes this such a modern movie: for all the reasons brought up in the scene where Tom and Ellen are discussing it, you just know the marriages aren't going to work out, and yet there's still enough substance there and the characters are so likable, you hope it will. You buy into the fantasy, too, though you know they are all going to have to work real hard and there's no guarantee of success.
And that is what makes it a modern movie, that complex interaction of reality and fantasy, and the involvement of the audience in that process.
Of course, you can skip all that and just sit back and enjoy Astaire dancing with the hatrack, or on the walls and ceiling of his hotel room; Jane Powell is a revelation, too. She holds her own in all her dance scenes, plus she can sing. I find the soprano stuff very grating, though it works out well in ""How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life" - a song said to have the longest title in any MGM musical. It's a good routine, though, and then the Haiti number at the end just pulls out all the stops. Powell doesn't sing in that one, and she doesn't have to -- it's interesting that during the number Astaire dances twice with a chimp or some similar sort of small primate in his arms before he meets up with Powell -- the dancing is excellent, and again, there are the primitive rhythms, the syncopation, an almost Fosse feeling to the whole thing.
But they don't end the movie there, and that's what I especially like about this.
Subject: Surprisingly fun & entertaining.
Despite the singing and dancing (yes, I realize this is a musical) I found this film to be very enjoyable based on characters and the way they carry out the story.